After an uninspiring first half the home side made three changes in an attempt to inject more cutting edge to their game in the second period.
It eventually paid off on 79 minutes when substitute Kris Commons fired in a low drive from 20 yards.
St Mirren’s John Potter missed a good close-range chance in added time.
The win takes Celtic onto 73 points at the top of the SPL table, five ahead of Rangers, who travel to Hamilton tomorrow (Sunday).
The hosts had come into the game off the back of a 3-1 midweek win over in-form Hibernian, but the performance in the opening 45 minutes was a far cry from that clinical display.
Manager Neil Lennon, serving the last game of his touchline ban, would have noted down just one real chance for his men.
That came after half-an-hour when Anthony Stokes rose to meet Cha Du-Ri’s cross from the right-hand side, and the Irishman’s header from seven yards went narrowly past the St Mirren post.
Other than that Celtic were sloppy in possession and struggled to get in behind a very well-organised Saints defence.
Beram Kayal, Celtic captain for the afternoon, and Ki Sung-Yeung in particular were guilty of wasteful passes.
And as the home crowd grew restless Ki and Charlie Mulgrew resorted to efforts from distance, which never troubled Paul Gallacher in the visitors’ goal.
Instead, it was St Mirren, perhaps enjoying renewed confidence after winning their last two games, who looked more comfortable, and they had better chances to break the deadlock.
Michael Higdon watched a glancing header go across goal after 13 minutes, and then Steven Thompson had a glorious opportunity from Kenny McLean’s cut-back.
But the Saints midfielder swung his foot and completely missed the ball from an excellent position just 10 yards from Fraser Forster’s goal.
Shortly before the break, Celtic’s James Forrest showed more urgency, taking the ball in from the right wing, and beating a couple of players before steering a shot past the far post.
But St Mirren had the last chance of the half, when Higdon was afforded acres of space at a corner, drifting away from his marker before badly scooping his shot over from around the penalty spot.
Shaun Maloney was given his first taste of action for more than four months after the break, with Gary Hooper making way having had a quiet game.
The home side began to show much more intent, putting St Mirren under some sustained pressure, but still they failed to really test Gallacher.
And although the league leaders made tracks down the wings, their crosses were often poor, and when Emilio Izaguirre burst through the middle from left-back his attempt to slip the ball through to Maloney was overhit and the move broke down like so many others.
With Ki and Ljungberg proving largely ineffectual, they were replaced by the more regular first XI pairing of Joe Ledley and Commons.
And the change paid off, as shortly afterwards Commons gave Celtic the goal which, until then, had looked unlikely for the hosts.
Maloney received the ball 18 yards out, dragged it across the box before laying it off to Commons who rattled a first-time shot low inside the post from around 20 yards.
As the game drew to a close, St Mirren’s Potter was inches away from a spectacular equaliser with a rasping shot from 25 yards which flew just over the bar.
And the Saints defender had a wonderful chance to level in added time, but he lashed a left-foot volley wide from just seven yards after Celtic had failed to clear a corner.
|Home Team||Score||Away Team||Time|
- 26 Forster
- 03 Izaguirre
- 11 Cha Du-Ri
- 21 Mulgrew
- 22 Loovens
- 07 Ljungberg (Commons 70)
- 18 Ki Sung-Yeung (Ledley 61)
- 33 Baram Kayal
- 10 Stokes
- 49 Forrest
- 88 Hooper (Maloney 46)
- 24 Zaluska,
- 12 Wilson,
- 25 Rogne,
- 16 Ledley,
- 09 Samaras,
- 13 Maloney,
- 15 Commons
- 01 Gallacher
- 05 Mair (Barron 81)
- 06 Potter
- 14 McGregoryellow card
- 17 McAusland
- 07 Murray (Wardlaw 81)
- 08 Thomson
- 11 Goodwin
- 27 Cregg
- 45 Mclean (Travner 72)
- 10 Higdon
- 12 Samson,
- 02 van Zanten,
- 03 Barron,
- 16 Travner,
- 33 Mooy ,
- 43 McKernon,
- 18 Wardlaw
- Celtic 62%
- St Mirren 38%
Attempts on target
- Celtic 2
- St Mirren 1
Attempts off target
- Celtic 9
- St Mirren 5
- Celtic 6
- St Mirren 3
- Celtic 7
- St Mirren 9